Officials’ Concern Split Over Hit-Style Killings

Official responses to the recent rash of professional-style killings in Phnom Penh were split on Tuesday, with some police officers saying the situation is better than previous election years. However, other city officials said they are greatly concerned by the recent killings on Phnom Penh’s streets.

Less than a week since the brazen, early morning assassination of Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sok Sethamony on Sihanouk Boulevard, a 29-year-old Chinese woman was shot and killed in her vehicle on a busy side street off Mao Tse-tung Boulevard on Tuesday morning.

Suspects have neither been identified nor apprehended in either case.

The latest shooting, last week’s killing of Sok Sethamony and the slayings in February of a leading Buddhist monk and a royalist party official display all the hallmarks of professional killings, police officials say.

Commenting on Tuesday’s shooting, Municipal First Deputy Governor Than Sina said that a Monday meeting of the Phnom Penh municipality was devoted to the recent killings in the city.

“We are very concerned about this,” Than Sina said.

“We are investigating into this matter. We are taking all measures to crack down,” he added.

Phnom Penh’s security officials were in attendance at the meeting, which was closed to the media, Than Sina said.

Deputy Municipal Police Chief Heng Pov said on Tuesday that police are working hard to find the killers, but said the situation is not as bad as previous election years.

“Normally, when it comes close to the elections the crime usually increases. However, we should be appreciative because crime is less than other [election] years,” Heng Pov said.

Heng Pov also said he would resign if there was someone who could do a better job of tackling crime in the capital.

“I think if people, or the superiors, can find someone better to replace me, I will not be sad,” Heng Pov said.

Deputy Municipal Police Chief Muong Khim also said on Tuesday that preventing such killings would take an operation equal to the security precautions put in place around last year’s Asean Summit.

However, such a deployment was not feasible as it would prevent police officers from earning a living in other jobs. Police officers cannot survive on their state salaries alone, Muong Khim said.

“[Criminals] cannot commit any crime if we deploy police like a fence post,” Muong Kim said.

“[But] if we deploy police everywhere like that, the police would be all dead because they would have nothing to eat,” he said.

Another Phnom Penh police officer said that police units are now fully focused on preventing anti-government demonstrations ahead of the July 27 general election.

Police radio channels have been separated for different types of police information, whereas before, all officers could hear the same radio traffic about all types of crimes, said another officer, who spoke on condition on anonymity.

Now only top officers are notified about serious crimes, he claimed.

He also said the latest killing was professional.

“Offenders have different skills. Robbers rob, but do not pick pockets. The killers are ready to kill under the command of ringleaders. Like in Hong Kong movies,” the officer said.

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